Dr. L. Michael Glodé, recently retired as the Robert Rifkin Chair for Prostate Cancer Research and is Professor Emeritus of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado in Denver, and has been a pioneer in prostate cancer medical oncology. He is also the author of the popular Prost8blog.
How did you become involved with Movember?
Dr. Glode: I first found out about Movember at one of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) meetings several years ago. I met one of their leaders, Paul Villanti. Over the years, I met up with Paul at various prostate cancer meetings. Eventually, we had him come out to Colorado to talk about some of Movember’s initiatives and how we could be involved.
What has been your fundraising strategy? What has worked? What hasn’t?
Dr. Glode: The first time I noticed that prostate cancer was beginning to see some public visibility was back in the 1990s when Michael Milken began PCF. I had Komen-envy, because the breast cancer population had done so well in terms of raising visibility and money. There was just nothing like that in prostate cancer until Milken started his work. With his leadership, a lot more people became interested in medical oncology and prostate cancer.
The Movember movement struck me when I heard about it. They started about 10 years ago and were ahead of the curve. They were raising way more money from the general public than had ever been done before, and along with that, raising visibility. I eventually watched one of the TED talks that had to do with them. I thought this is definitely the organization to get behind if you want to do what women have done for breast cancer through the Komen Foundation.
I didn’t do much fundraising at the time. I started growing a mustache every November and talking to my patients about it. Then I started my own blog, which has about 600 followers by now. Facebook and social media came along after that and I reached out to my followers.
Most of the time, friends, family, and a few patients have donated, but occasionally, somebody feels motivated and donates a large sum. In one case, a patient saw my mustache, was interested, and gave a very substantial donation to Movember, which was certainly gratifying.
In the academic world, we have some ambivalence about national organizations versus local initiatives. Over the years, I’ve been the beneficiary of wonderful support from patients who’ve donated lots of money to the University of Colorado. That kind of fundraising is a part of what you do in academics.
But it’s been fun to get involved with a global movement that more closely resembled the Komen Foundation and to be able to watch the fun of growing a moustache and seeing how much money we raise globally. I was very attracted to their combination of raising awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health in a fun way.
What has been your strategy for activating people in your community?
Dr. Glode: I’m growing a moustache, and I usually print up little business cards saying “Please support my moustache,” with a link so they can make a contribution to Movember. I give them to the patients I see during the month of November.
The University of Colorado has a Movember team. We’ve reached out with an email blast to encourage people to join our fundraising team. A lot of the guys are running around the med school with moustaches on. All that works to the good.
One strategy that’s a nascent idea this year is a collaboration with the owner of this hipster barbershop here in Denver called Crisp. It’s a combined barbershop-tattoo parlor. The guys in there had a sign display for Movember a couple years ago. I met with the owner of that shop who’s a very entrepreneurial guy. We’ve been discussing ways we could join doctors and barbers, that ancient path of how barbers were the first surgeons. Everybody in his shop is covered with tattoos and piercings while my colleagues at the university are straight arrow, white coat types. We thought it would be sort of fun.
We’re going to have a combined event at the end of November to get people together and celebrate. Eventually, it would be fun to have the barbers and doctors together on the local TV station to raise awareness. We’re working some of those angles to do what we can to raise awareness.
It’s terrific to try and find ways to get men talking about something other than the miserable quarterback performance on Sunday afternoon.
This particular barbershop is a younger group of people. They have a fairly large Hispanic clientele as well. That’s going to be kind of a fun way to reach some new people with information and awareness. The fact that it’s not just about prostate cancer, but also testicular cancer, suicide prevention, and all that is also wonderful.
Movember takes very serious issues like suicide prevention and prostate cancer and raises awareness with lighthearted and fun things like growing a mustache.
Dr. Glode: Absolutely. That was the spirit in which they started things. When you read about how they all got started, it was just a couple guys in Australia deciding to grow a mustache. It wasn’t until the following year that they said, “This was a fun thing to do. Maybe we could make it into something that would be meaningful in terms of raising money.” It is very organic. It grew from a few guys in a bar to an international movement, which is remarkable.
They started by encouraging guys to take a picture of their mustaches and sharing it through social media.
Dr. Glode: I have to admit that the social media wave just passed me by when I wasn’t looking.
You have a blog. That’s social media.
Dr. Glode: That’s about as far as I got. I was very involved with helping the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) get started with their first internet presence. I thought up the ASCO online project when I was chairman of the Education Committee about 25 years ago. Back then people said, “My kid could set up a web page in his garage. Why are you asking us for money to get this started?” Now, of course, it’s grown. As with every other organization, your web presence and what you do on the internet is essentially who you are.
Right. It’s your brand presence.
Dr. Glode: I’ve got a Twitter account, but I never use it. I have a Facebook account primarily to keep up with my grandchildren’s pictures and that sort of stuff. I’m 70 this year, and I keep track of some of my high school friends through that. There are people in my high school cohort who must spend hours every day on Facebook. It’s amazing.
I guess if you’re socially or physically isolated it might be a way to connect with people.
Dr. Glode: Yes. It’s very meaningful. Its power is phenomenal.
You mentioned the association between Movember and the Prostate Cancer Foundation early on. Originally, Movember donated all the money to nonprofits in each country. As a fundraiser, are you familiar with where the money goes or how it’s spent?
Dr. Glode: I’m not so familiar how the money is spent. I do know that as an example, the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) has become international. Movember and PCF have aligned goals when it comes to prostate cancer. PCF is instrumental in sponsoring and underwriting some of the best researchers in the world, getting them together at meetings every year.
Movember tends to sponsor projects and spend the money in the same country as the money was raised.
In terms of project management, one of our faculty members has a grant from Movember for TrueNTH, a Movember initiative, and I’ve been asked to be an advisor.
TrueNTH has 10 or 12 pilot projects that they’re working on to see what works and what doesn’t work in terms of using internet capabilities to reach out to people who might be more isolated. They’re looking to provide online counseling in the same way that people talk about couples counseling. They also want to ensure support group-type functions via the internet for people in more isolated communities. It’s a work-in-progress. We have to see how well these various projects pan out in terms of actually reaching the target population.
My experience has been that it’s a pretty small fraction of men who take advantage of support groups. There are usually one or two guys who are the sparkplugs who will start a support group, organize a place to get together once a month with an outside speaker. For example, in Denver there are usually about 10 to 20 men who come. They’re very interested in the latest research findings. My blog goes a long way to help them feel like they’re keeping up.
There is also some advantage in just being able to get together. I don’t think that men generally have the sense of openness that women do in talking about their experiences. That’s just a gender difference. I’m not sure that the internet, or other means of trying to break through that silence, is going to be terribly successful.
If people activate themselves and grow a mustache and talk to their families about it, that’s a great starting point.
A lot of men have first-degree relatives—their sons, their fathers, their uncles, or their brothers—with prostate cancer, but they don’t talk about it at the Thanksgiving table. Getting over that barrier is a great place to start for growing a mustache. You can say, I’m a prostate cancer survivor and prostate cancer is something I really care about. I’m supporting Movember. I encourage you to support my mustache.
It is a way of bringing the topic out into the public discourse.
Dr. Glode: And it’s fun. The fact that Movember has expanded their bucket of interest to include suicide prevention and testicular cancer makes it that much more meaningful.
While we each may only know one or two people who have committed suicide, I’m pretty sure we all know many more who have considered it or who have been depressed in a quiet way.
Dr. Glode: Yes. Men’s overall health is important. Prostate cancer may be the initial discussion, but everybody should know their blood pressure and their cholesterol. Everybody should get off the couch and do more exercise.
I have a terrible moustache myself. My beard is even worse. My experience proves that growing a moustache initiates conversation all the time. Now people are connecting that with Movember.
It gives me the chance to say you should grow your own moustache and try to raise money like me because this is a really great organization and a really great way to contribute to men’s health. I encourage you to grow your own moustache and get your friends and neighbors to support it. It’s a nice conversation starter. It really works pretty well.